Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"The Eleventh Guest" by Andy Biscontini


By the time this is over, the rug will be ruined and Ron will be dead. I will eventually own another home, but I will never throw another dinner party.

My name is Amanda Andersen. I am thirty-seven years old and my previous dinner parties have contributed to two divorces (one of them mine), the dissolution of eight friendships (four of them mine), and two career-ending humiliations (not counting tonight, neither of them mine).

One could say I should have learned a lesson. One could also kiss my ass.

I owe these people something, don’t I? After all, I hired them into a company that’s never been anything more than a saleable asset that’s about to sell. These people have spent two years of their life as pawns in a game that I, as a partner, stand to make a lot of money off of, and their severance packages are like nothing.

The least I can give them is a nice dinner.

I mean what the hell? Right?

I’m hiding in the backyard behind the shed smoking a joint with Bobby Fuller under the trees and the moonlight. Bobby is nineteen but I like to think of him as seventeen. He is an intern. I traded the entire marketing department a day at the spa for him. I enjoy giving him jobs that involve him picking up file boxes and putting them on high shelves. I like to stand close to him when showing him how to use the copy machine or fax machine and I like to think that he’s only pretending to still not know how to do it. I wear short skirts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because I like it when he checks out my legs. I have very nice legs.

And I like to see his blue eyes go starry as he passes me the joint. I brush his fingers when I take it. I haven’t smoked weed in years but I take a deep hit. My lungs burn and my loins tingle and my head starts to unfold. Oh, Bobby.

He’s saying something but I don’t care. He’s been talking since we came out here, going on and on about something.

I stroke his thigh and run my hand over his teenage boner. He doesn’t stop talking. I run my hand around his ass and pull him towards me. I clamp his lower torso between my legs and I pull his face into my cleavage. He doesn’t stop talking. What’s wrong with this boy? I’ve seen him looking at my legs. And he’s just talking. Where are his hands? Where’s his tongue? Why else would a seventeen-year-old boy schlep out to the suburbs on a Friday night for a dinner party at his former boss’s house if not for a piece of her, right? When I was seventeen, a boy knew how to bust a move.

Christ. I have guests. I don’t have time for this crap.

I leave Bobby mumbling away in the grass, brush myself off, and cross the yard to the warm lights of kitchen.

Ron is at the sink doing the dishes.

“There you are,” he says.

“Don’t do the dishes,” I tell him.

Bobby comes in the door behind me with his shirt untucked and his fly down.

“XYZ champ,” Ron says.

Bobby smiles dumbly and zips up, giving me a daffy grin. The kid’s an idiot. I can no longer pretend he isn’t. He goes into the other room.

Ron gives me a look.

“What?” I don’t say it, I just give him a look.

“Are you stoned?” he asks me.

“No.” I had an obvious affair with Ron last year to help facilitate the breakup of my marriage. He has had a difficult time accepting the fact that that’s all it was and my fucking him was not an invitation into my life.

“Things can’t go on like this,” he says, drying his hands with the dishcloth. Is he fucking serious?

“Ron,” I say, then I can’t think of what to say next, so I just say, “…fuck.”

He doesn’t know what it means, but he thinks it means something because that’s the kind of guy he is and that’s why he and I will never have a relationship.

The Ghost does me a favor and smashes a lamp in the other room.

“What was that?” Ron asks.

“I’ll take care of it. Just do the dishes.” I tell him, and head back into the living room, where my blue Adler lamp is smashed on the floor and Pam is trembling.

“It just flew off the table…” she says, “All by itself!”

I had known the house was haunted when I moved in. The Realtor had warned me that it had driven the previous owners out. But I figured what the hell? How bad could it be, right?

And it really wasn’t so bad.

The Ghost opened and closed doors, but didn’t slam them. When it turned the T.V. on in the middle of the night, it kept the volume low. It took the cap off the toothpaste, but I didn’t care about that. And when it rearranged the kitchen it always did so according to an easily decipherable logic.

The Adler lamp is the first thing it’s broken. Which is cool because it got me away from Ron and not cool cause that lamp cost a lot of money and now Pam is totally freaked out.

Pam is my age. She wears soft pastel-colored sweaters and beige rayon skirts and considers herself open-minded because she describes things she doesn’t understand as “funky.” Pam once said she likes me because I’m “funky.” I don’t like that because I associate the word ‘funky’ with the smell of athletic undergarments.

My little brother puts his arm around her to comfort her. He’s trying to get laid. I can tell. It’s slim pickings at this party, but my little bro’s unstoppable. In high school he had sex with every one of my friends, which made me jealous. I have always wanted to have sex with my little brother.

Creepy William is standing over the lamp, stroking his stringy beard. William wears bad brown shirts, has joggers’ man-breasts, smells like a health-food store, and spends all his time in the office composing ranting internal emails about new ways to approve office efficiency and minimize environmental impact. He once told me he considered me his intellectual equal. He found out about this party by accident.

“It seemed to lift off the table before it fell,” he says.

Bobby Fuller sips a glass of wine and sits on the window sill. He stares at my legs as I bend down to pick up the pieces of the lamp, pie-eyed and smiling softly. I have no respect for his generation.

It’s taken this long for Ryan to spring into action. “Is there anything I can do?” he asks, “Can I get some sort of dustpan or a broom or something?” Ryan is from somewhere in the Midwest, one of the states that begins with ‘I’. He is thick and earnest and serious to the point of being a little spooky. I have visions of Ryan showing up for work everyday long after the office is gone, sitting patiently among the empty cubicles as newspapers and tumbleweeds blow past him, then going home and punching a hole in his refrigerator door out of frustration. His mousy pear-shaped bug-eyed girlfriend whose name I’m not going to remember is sitting in the corner eating a wedge of brie with a fork as if it were a piece of pie.

Todd and Amy aren’t paying any attention at all. Todd is the only other partner who came to the party. Amy was hired as his secretary and he promptly seduced her on a bet, after which they settled quickly into an impressive cycle of misery with which they both seem very happy. When apart, they bitch incessantly about each other. When together, they drag some poor third party into a conversation in which they lay out each other’s shortcomings and compete for the listener’s sympathies.

Tonight their victim is Mokimbe.

Mokimbe is African and I’m proud of myself for hiring him because I’m intimidated by black people. His accent makes me feel very international. He watches Todd and Amy go back and forth, genuinely entertained. He catches my eye and smiles.

For a moment I feel like I see the party through his eyes. The bunch of us, hanging in this haunted room like wayward atoms in a dysfunctional molecule that will never find a bond.

Then Ron comes out of the kitchen.

Everything begins to move slowly.

The ten-inch knife comes flying out of the kitchen in a straight line after him.

It enters his back and pokes through his shirt.

He doesn’t know what hit him.

Nobody knows what hit him.

He tries to talk and chokes up blood.

He craps himself loudly.

Pam screams and clings to my little brother, whose hand closes over her left tit.

Ron pitches forward onto his face. The knife pushes up through his back.

His blood soaks into the carpet.

I’m lying on my back in the grass behind the shed, under the stars and the trees smoking Bobby Fuller’s joint.

I wonder if the homeowner is liable for the actions of the home.

I think I hear a roller coaster.

I feel a free-fall in the pit of me.

It feels alright.

copyright, © 2006, 2007 Andy Biscontini